‘Wicked Tuna’: How Long Is Tuna Season?

by Taylor Cunningham

We all know that the captains of Wicked Tuna can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars each season that they head out and film with the Discovery Channel. But what’s surprising is that they bring in their entire income in only a matter of weeks.

That’s right, the cast of the long-running TV show only has a short window of time to reel in tuna each year—14 weeks, to be exact—which is why the castmates are willing to risk their lives by working so fast on the open seas.

“If I don’t catch a fish, I don’t have money to provide for my family,” Captain Dave Marciano of Hard Merchandise said in that press release. “Money doesn’t just fall from the sky — it comes out of the sea.”

As Marciano shared, his family’s financial livelihood hinges on his ability to hustle over the course of roughly three and a half months. And it’s perfectly reasonable to try relying on one season of Wicked Tuna earnings to cover his bills for a year.

Overfishing and a Short-Season Can Make Working on ‘Wicked Tuna’ Unpredictable

As Marciano told Boston Magazine in 2013, a single bluefin tuna can bring in anywhere from $10,000 to as much as $20,000. However, finding the fish is becoming increasingly harder.

Between 1950 and 2013, the bluefin population dropped by 75%. And because of that, boats can legally only bring in three tuna per day. However, thanks to those decades of overfishing, that’s not always possible.

“We try and catch three per trip, but that doesn’t always happen,” said Dave Carraro. “Most of the time we come back with just one.”

On the slow days, Carraro says he and the other captains convince themselves that they’ll “make up for it” the next day. But fishing is unpredictable. And in reality, they can’t rely on their jobs to always work out.

“We just hope that the next time we go out, we can make up for it,” Marciano noted. “It’s one of the hard things about being a fisherman. Sometimes it gets very stressful on the home front when we don’t know where the next check is coming for groceries.”

So between both population and time issues, beating out the other captains is about more than just friendly competition.

“Tuna fishing is a tough business. And you have to remain competitive,” Carraro added. “My colleagues at sea don’t always agree with my methods, but I’ll do whatever it takes to stay on top.”

You can watch Dave Carraro and Dave Marciano try to beat the odds on Wicked Tuna every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic TV.